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HORIZONTAL PLOWING 



HILL-SIDE DITCHING. 



BY NICHOLAS T. SORSBY. M.D. 



OF AXiABAMA. 



S. H. G^OETZEL &c CO 

1860. 



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HORIZONTAL PLOWING 



HILL-SIDE DITCLIING. 



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BY NICHOLAS T. SORSBY, M.D., 

OF ALABAMA. 



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S. H. &OET.ZEL & CO 

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PREFACE 



This Essay was published in pamphlet form, and in the Transactions of 
THE North Carolina State Agi; [cultural Socikty, and in the North 
Carolina Planter, in 1858; and in the Southern Planter, Va., and in 
the American Cotton Planter and Soil of the South, in 1859. 

In order to correct the errors of those issues, and extend its usefulness 
further, the author has consented to publish a cheap edition of it. It has 
been pronounced the " best Essa3' ever written on the subject," but as we 
are all liable to err, the author will be thankful to have any error or ambi- 
guity of language pointed out to him, so that in a future edition theA may 
be corrected or explained. 

THE PUBLISHERS. 



AN ESSAY 



inrijnrrtal ipioinmg mxl(i pill-Sib^ ^itrl^ing 



By NICHOLAS T. SORSBY, M.D. 

OF ALABAMA.* 



DEDICATION. 

This nnpretending production is respectfully dedicated to the Farmers and Planters of the State 
of North Carolina, as a testimony of his tender regard for them, and love for his native State, by 

THE AUTHOR. 

FoEKLAND, Green County, Alabama, 
October, 1857. 



To THE Committee on Essays : 

Gentlemen : You perceive from the length of this Essa--, that 
it has cost me a good deal of time and labor to write it. Rest 
assured, I would not have written such an Essay for any other 
than the Agricultural Society of North Carolina. 

I was induced to write it from the interest 1 feel for the pro- 
gress of the Society, and the advancement of the Agriculture of 
the State, and as the only and best way I am able to assist them. 

If awarded the Premium, the Society is at liberty to publish 
all, or any part of it, and as many copies as they desire, but I 
beg leave to reserve the copyright ; and as I have no copy of it, 
I would be under many obligations to them to return it, when 
it has served them in the manner they desire. 

By so doing they will much oblige. 

Very respectfully. 

Their ob't servant, 

N. T. SORSBY. 

FoEKLAND, Ala., Oct. 13th, 1857. 

* A Premium of $50 was awarded bj- the Society to tliio Essay. 



PREFACE. 



This Essay was written in compliance with the demands of 
the North Carolina State Agricultural Society. 

The writer having felt the need of such information, in days 
past, feels he would be uncharitable and ungrateful to withhold, 
and not impart his knowledge on the subject, to his brother 
farmers. 

He has endeavored to serve them in a feeble manner, in a mat- 
ter deeply concerning their ])ecuniary welfare, and tried to arrange 
the subject in a systematic form, and explain the different methods 
of the horizontal culture, so that the humblest mind can under- 
stand and appreciate them. 

Each article is separate and distinct from the others, and yet 
are connected together by the general bearing of the subject. 

Should this small effort in behalf of the soil of North Carolina, 
meet with the approbation and requisitions of the members of 
the Agricultural Society, and receive the careful perusal, study, 
and application of its principles to the soil, by the farmers and 
planters of the State, the writer shall feel that his labor is not 
lost, and his talent not buried in oblivion. 



INTRODUCTION. 



It has been but a few years since the subject of this Essay 
was brought to the notice of the American Farmer. 

It now occupies an important and prominent position among 
the scientific operations of the Southern Farm. 

It may be considered as a new branch of agricultural science, 
founded upon correct and well established principles of the sci- 
ences of Engineering and Hydraulics ; and essential to the wel- 
fare of the farmer, to the preservation of the soil, and to good 
husbandry. 

Forced, almost by necessity, and the strong sense of self- 
interest and foresight, a few intelligent minds have been brought 
to discover the urgent need of reforming the old destructive 



INTRODUCTION. Vll 



system of plowing in straight rows up and down hills, and of 
substituting the better mode of horizontal culture. 

The absurdity of the old method is really a subject of aston- 
ishment and mortification to those who practice the new 
methods. The arable lands of the South have been nearly 
exhausted by it and a careless and wasteful culture. 

The beauty and simplicity of the principles and practice, as 
well as the advantages of the new methods, can only be realized 
and brought home to the farmer and planter, by observation, 
study, and practice, and when once understood, they will won- 
der at their past folly of land-killing, and grieve to know they 
practiced it so long, when a different and better system is so 
easily learned and pursued. 

When we reflect upon the disasters to the soil, occasioned by 
the pursuit of the old method, and see the apparent apathy to, 
and indifference with which the more perfect and better system 
is viewed by some intelligent farmers and planters, at the present 
enlightened era and golden age of agricultural science, we feel 
alarmed for them, for their lands, and the succeeding genera- 
tions. 

What a poor inheritance to hand down to an industrious son, 
an old dilapidated homestead, with an old worn-out, galled and 
gullied farm ! Think of it, farmers and planters ! 

The very sight of decay all around, excites in the mind of the 
young man, disgust, despair, a disposition to abandon the old 
place, once so dear to him, and the family, now so much abused, 
and seek a newer and better place, richer land, among strangers. 
He has no desire to cultivate the worn-out old fields, and per- 
haps there is no new land to clear. The old method of plowing 
up and down hill, has much to answer for ; it has driven many a 
young man to the South-west, and perhaps, eventually, to prison, 
or the gallows, who might have been a useful citizen, could he 
have remained at home, and made a living. 

Whilst the horizontal culture and the ridge and furrow sys- 
tem are attracting the attention, and being adopted by intelli- 
gent planters and farmers, its principles must be studied scien- 
tifically and practically, and new discoveries in the art applied, 
tested, and settled in the minds of men, or else there will be no 
end to the diversity of opinions that may arise, and lead to dis- 
cussions that may retard the advancement of the new science. 

It would require much time and space to elucidate the differ- 
ent methods of the horizontal culture, as fully as some men may 
desire, perhaps. 

We have endeavored to simplify it, and should some of our 
readers not comprehend it perfectly, all that we can say to them 
is, study the principles laid down here, and then take the level 
and follow the plumb, and it will lead them over more tortuoua 



Vm INTRODUCTION. 



and obscure lines than we have penned here, and a few horizon- 
tal rows run with patience and care, will teach them more about 
it than was ever dreamed of in our philosophy. 

Our aim has been, in writing this Essay, to collect together 
our ideas on this subject, to compare them with others, and de- 
duce from them correct principles, and upon these principles es- 
tablish with fidelity, practical rules, and thus accomplish by a 
general survey of the subject, and a brief enumeration of the de- 
tails founded upon our own experience and observation, all that 
we think the State Agricultural Society of North Carolina, re- 
quires of the writer. 



HISTORY OF HORIZONTAL CULTURE. 



We regi'et to state that we have not been able by a careful 
research of all the Agricultural works that we have been able to 
examine, in the English and French languages, to find the ori- 
gin of this system of culture. 

Mr. Thomas Jefferson, who was a close observer of improve- 
ments in Agriculture, in a letter dated " Monticello, 6th March, 
1816," says, " My son-in-law. Colonel Thomas M. Randolph, is, 
perhaps, the best farmer in the State ; and by the introduction 
of the Horizontal method of Plowing, instead of straight fur- 
rows, has really saved this hilly country. It was running off in 
the valleys with every rain, but by this process we scarcely lose 
an ounce of soil. 

" A rafter level traces a horizontal line around the curve of 
the hill or valley, at distances of thirty or forty yards, which is 
followed by the plow ; and by these guide-lines the plowman 
finishes the interval by his eyes, throwing the earth into beds of 
six feet wide, with large water furrows between them. When more 
rain falls than can be instantly absorbed, the horizontal furrows 
retain the surplus until it is all soaked up, scarcely a drop ever 
reaching the valley below. 

" Mr. Randolph has contrived also, for our steepest hill-sides, 
^Ol'J a sin pie plan which throws the furrows always down hill. It is 
made with two wings welded to the same bar, with their planes 
at a right angle to each other. The point and the heel of the 
bar are formed into pivots, and the bar becomes an axis, by turn- 
ing which, either wing may be laid on the ground, and the other 
then standing vertically, acts as a mould-board. The right an- 
gle between them, however, is filled with a sloping piece of wood, 
leaving only a cutting margin of each wing naked, and aiding in 
the ofiice of raising the sod gradually, while the declivity of the 
hill facilitates its falling over. The change of the position of the 
share at the end of each furrow is effected in a moment by with- 
drawing and- replacing a pin." 

It seems Colonel Randolph introduced this method of plow- 
ing into Virginia, previous to 1816, as Mr, Jefferson states he 
was acquainted with it two or three years previous to writing 
this letter. 



lO DR. N. T, SORSBY's ESSAY 



This is the earliest notice that we have seen of the use of the 
horizontal culture, as practiced in the South at the present day. 
It would be gratifying to know from whence he introduced it, 
and where it originated. 

In " Taylor's Arator," published in Virginia the beginning of 
this century, on the subject of plowing hilly lands, it is stated 
" that such lands will admit of narrow ridges, as well as level, by 
a degree of skill and attention so easily attainable, that it has ex- 
isted in Scotland above a century past under a state of agricul- 
ture otherwise execrable, and among the ignorant Highlanders ! 
It is effected by carrying the ridges horizontally in such inflec- 
tions as the hilliness of the ground may require, curved or zig- 
zag, preserving the breadth. The preservation of the soil is 
hardly more valuable than that of the rain water in the succes- 
sive reservoirs thus produced to refresh the thirsty hill-sides, in- 
stead of its reaching to and poisoning the valleys." 

It is very strange, if this system was pursued in Scotland so 
very long ago, that there is no mention made of it in English 
works. 

During an extensive tour, and residence of over three years in 
Europe, from Great Britain to Naples, Italy, through Holland, 
Belgium, France, Switzerland, and parts of Germany, we never 
saw, heard or read of its being pursued in any of those countries 
as it is done here, and we cannot conceive how it could have ever 
been practiced in Scotland and not kept up now-a-days. 

In our travels throughout the United States, we have seen it 
pursued from Mississippi to North Carolina. We have been to 
Monticello several times, when a student at the University of 
Virginia, and though remarking the productiveness of the soil 
there, and around Charlottsville, we were too young to notice 
the mode of culture, but we are sure we never saw a rafter-level 
or any other level applied to land in Virginia. Had we seen it 
we should have noticed it, because we had followed it before we 
went there to school, in 1836. 

In " Thaer's Principles of Agriculture," a standard German 
work, in speaking of plowing ridges, he says : " The most ad- 
vantageous disposition of them that can be made on an inclined 
surface, is to give them a horizontal or standing direction ;" but 
he says nothing more on the subject. Had he been acquainted 
with the method as pursued in the South, he would have written 
considerably on it. 

We are inclined to believe the Horizontal system of plowing 
is of Southern invention. We are astonished at the fact, since 
the Southern planters and farmers have the reputation of being 
such careless and wasteful cultivators of the soil. 

We consider it the most important discovery of the modern 
agricultural era. So important is it to the South, and to the 



ON HORIZONTAL PLOWING AND HILL-SIDE DITCHING. 11 



soil in evfiiy part of the world where it rains like it does here, 
that the discoverer of the method deserves the lasting gratitude 
of the Southern people, and a place upon the tablet of memory 
next to that of the father of our country. 

Hill-side ditching and guard-drains, were discovered subse- 
quent to the origin or introduction of the horizontal system into 
Virginia. They were first introduced into that State soon after 
the introduction of the horizontal method, about 1815 or 1816 ; 
by whom, we do not know. 

Tlie first written notice of the horizontal culture and hill-side 
ditching that we ever saw, was in the pages of the " Southern 
Cultivator." Major E. D. W., our step-father, first introduced 
the method of Horizontal Plowing on the level system into this 
county, In the spring of 1834. He had read a notice of it in 
some paper, which induced him to try it on some hilly land at 
the Dial Place. 

He used the rafter-level and plummet-line, and ran off rows 
to be plowed four feet apart into beds for corn and cotton. We 
were a boy then, and carried the hoe and made the chop marks 
for him. He was so well pleased with the results of it, and with 
his experiment, that he has continued it ever since with great 
success on two plantations. He has a thousand or more acres 
under the plumb. He has tested it thoroughly, and has pre- 
served the fertility, retained the soil, and improved his lands, 
aided by a pro]ier ap|)lication of manures, under a severe course 
of cropping. Without this system, all th*- manure he could make 
would not preserve half of the land in its present state of fertili- 
ty for five years. He would as soon abandon planting as to 
abandon the horizontal system of culture. 

We have assisted him in the work a good deal, and induced 
him to try guard-drains and hill-side ditches about 1851 or 1852. 
in order to lighten his labor and lessen his care and attention to 
it, as he is getting old and the confinement to the field and ex- 
posure to the cold during the winter and spring, are injurious to 
his health. But, he says, he could dispense with the drains and 
ditches if he could attend to the plowing in person every spring, 
aud direct the work and correct tbo errors of the previous year's 
work. 

An old negro horizontaler lays off the rows, and attends to one 
plantation where there are between six and seven hundred acres 
under the plumb ; and manages it astonishingly well for a man 
of his understanding. 

His lands were originally of a good quality, and are of a mixed 
character. On one plantation, the grey and mulatto sandy land 
prevails, the subsoil being yellow and red clay a foot, and eigh- 
teen inches originally, in parts of it, beneath the surface soil. — 
The balance of the land is a chocolate loam on a red clay subsoil. 



12 DR. N. T. SORSBY'S ESSAY 



Some of it is considered stiff red clay land. On the other plan- 
tation, the chocolate loam prevails with a close, stiff red clay 
subsoil, requiring a long and sharp pointed plow to penetrate it 
when moderately dry. The rest of the land on this plantation, 
is grey and gravelly sandy soil, loose and porous. Most of the 
land on both places, is gently undulating ridges. Some of it 
hilly, and some knolls. The stiff red' clay land is the most diffi- 
cult and expensive to cultivate, and is the best land for grain. 
It is also the most difficult of his land to manage on the level 
method of culture. 

I took my first lessons under him in the science, and owe him 
a debt of gratitude which can never be paid. He taught me the 
level culture, and I taught him the grading method. I com- 
menced ])lanting in 1844, in Hinds county, Mississippi, near 
Jackson, in copartnership with a brother. The level culture No. 
1, and the grading method No. 1, both combined, without drains 
and hill-side ditches, had been in use a few years on that plan- 
tation. The soil, a close, tenacious, marly clay, of a yellow 
color, changing into an ashy colored soil, when thoroughly dis- 
integrated and cultivated a year or two. I was partial to the 
level culture, and he to the grading method. 1 found out after 
a better acquaintance with the land, that the level culture re- 
tained the water too long, and mdde the land too wet for cotton. 
The grading method drained, but washed the land a good deal. 
After testing both methods to my satisfaction, I gave into his 
views rather from an avaricious motive than otherwise, to make 
better crops, though at a sacrifice of some land that took the 
streams and disappeared. From one to three inches fall were 
given to each row, when practicable, and the short inside rows 
plowed on a level. The land was rolling, and di'ains between 
the ridges conveyed the water into ditches and branches. We 
continued both systems until I left in December, 1850, and mov- 
ed back to this place. The grading method has been kept up 
by him. I commenced a mixed system here in 1851, and have 
practiced both of them to a certain extent. 

My land is chocolate and grey sandy land on a red and yellow 
clay subsoil. The grey land is of a fine texture, and much of it 
runs together and bakes. The chocolate land is loose and porous. 
It is generally a little undulating, some rolling, and some flat 
basins and ponds. It requires much ditching and surface drain- 
age, and some under-draining. Forest growth, pine, oak, hick- 
ory, chestnut and poplar, with a variety of undergrowth. 

My experience and observation teaches me, that the level cul- 
ture is the best method ever discovered to prevent arable land, of 
the majority of soils in the South, from washing by rains, but 
not the best always to secure good crops. The grading method 
is the safest as a general rule for the culture of cotton, and can 



ON HOKIZONTAL PLOWING AND HILL-SIDE DITCHING. 13 



be pursued to ^reat advantage on many soils that could be culti- 
vated well on the level method, when one is willing to lose a lit- 
tle soil to make a better crop, by draining the land. No one 
system of culture is, then, applicable to all soils ; and on large 
plantations of mixed soils, both the level and grading systems 
should be applied. He is a fortunate man who understands the 
different methods well enough to apply them to the best advan- 
tage to the different soils, on a large plantation. It requires 
close application to field study, a good knowledge of the geology 
of the soil and the agricultural character of the land, with years 
of experience, to know how to cultivate land to the best advan- 
tage to the soil, and to the increased size of the purse . 



SECTION I. 

DEFINITION OF HORIZONTAL CULTURE. 

Horizontalizing^ Cirdinri, and Leveling land are different 
terms employed by Agriculturists, in the South, to mean the 
same thing ; viz.: cultivating land in parallel lines run by a lev- 
eling instrument to direct and control rain water with the j)low. 

SECTION II. 

ITS OBJECTS. 

Tlie objects of the System of horizontal culture are, to irrigate 
to drain, and to preserve arable soil, in the simplest and most 
economical manner. • 

1st. By collecting, maintaining, and distributing rain water 
on the surface of arable land, it effects natural irrigation. 

2d. By conveying it away, by artificial channels, it effects 
drainage. 

3d. By a proper system of irrigation and drainage, the soil 
and the food of plants are retained, and the fertility of the land 
is preserved. 

SECTION III. 

GENERAL CONSIDERATIONS. 

Rain water being a solvent of the food of plants, and the me- 
dium of supplying tbsm with many of their elements, the sys- 
tem of horizontal culture teaches us to control, and diffuse it in 



14 DR. N. T. SORSBY'S ESSAY 



the soil, and distribute it in such a manner that the food of 
plants it contains, may be made available to the utmost degree, 
in promoting their growth ; and, when it exists in excess, to re- 
move it without injuring, or washing away the soil. 

Hence, we conclude that a correct system of manuring and 
improving land, depends greatly upon a proper regulation of 
water by the horizontal culture. 

We perceive, then, that the horizontal culture is a beautiful 
branch of the science of Agriculture ; that it is a mixed art, a 
combination of irrigation, drainage, and manuring. We cannot, 
therefore, study it well, appreciate it properly, and practice it 
successfully, without some knowledge of agricultural engineering, 
of the geology of the soil, and hydraulics, and the application of 
them to irrigation and drainage. 

We can then realize and appreciate the several advantages and 
connections of these branches of science with each other, in de- 
veloping the chemical and physical properties of soils, and in the 
improvement of the fertility of land. To practice it scientifically, 
and successfully, we must study and understand the geological 
formation, and the agricultural character of the soil, and ascer- 
tain by observation and experiment what plants grow on it best, 
and are most profitable to cultivate. 

Drill-husbandry, that is, the cultivation of crops in drills, by 
the ridge and furrow method, is indispensable, and the check and 
hill-culture are inadmissible except on level lands, as a general 
rule, by the system of horizontal culture. Of course, the broad- 
cast method can be employed, as well with one method as with 
the other. The horizontal culture, by the ridge and furrow 
method, conflicts with the practice and opinions of many farmers, 
in the oldest of the Southern States, who advocate the check and 
hill culture ; but an acquaintance with the horizontal culture 
changes their practice and opinions. 



SECTION IV. 

THE DIFFERENT METHODS OF HOEIZONTALIZING 

LAND 

Are divided into two principal systems : viz : 
1st. The level Method of Culture. 
2d. The Grading Method of Culture. 

Tlie Level Method, {or Irrigating System,) is divided into two 
methods ; viz : 

1st. Horizontaling with an instrument, on the level culture, 
without the aid of guard-drains, and hill-side ditches ; and, 



ON HORIZONTAL PLOWING AND HILL-SIDE DITCHING. l5 



2d. The level culture, aided by those drains and ditches. 

The Grading MetJwd, or Draining System, is divided into four 
different systems, viz : 

1st. HorizoDtaling with an instrument, giving a grade to the 
rows, without the assistance of guard-drains, and hill-side ditches. 

2d. With a grade to the rows, the same as that given to the 
drains and ditches, accompanied by those drains and ditches. 

3d. With a grade given to the rows so as to empty their water 
into the drains and ditches. 

4th. The straight-row method. The rows runup and down 
hills, and empty into hill-side ditches. 

Besides the above methods, there is the old mode of horizon- 
taling with the eye, without the aid of an instrument, or guard- 
drains, or hill-side ditches. 

SECTION V. 

THE DIFFERENT METHODS EXPLAINED. 

The old method of hill-side plowing by running the rows 
around hill-sides with the plow, directed with the eye, is mere 
guess work, and only an approximation to accuracy, and of course 
is very imperfect. 

It is done with the object of retaining the rain water in some 
instances, and of removing it in others ; in either case, it cannot 
effect the object in as perfect a manner as the new methods of 
level and grade work done on correct principles, by the leveling 
instrument. 

When the object is to retain the rain water, it answers tolera- 
bly well in some countries, on porous, poor, sandy soils, where the 
showers are not frequent and are light, and where the luguminous 
crops are cultivated mostly on high beds and lands, as a substi- 
tute for artificial irrigation, and where the spade and hoe are 
used, generally, for the purpose of forming the ridges. 

When adopted to drain hill-sides by the plow, unless^ the soil 
it not disposed to wash, it is very liable to do more injury to 
the land by washing it away than benefit by removing the water. 

It should not by any means be resorted to now, since we can 
substitute better methods for it. It is the first step towards the 
horizontal culture from the straight-row method ; and was per- 
haps invented for the purpose of retaining instead of removing 
water. 

1. Level Cidture or Irrigating System. — By this method the 
rows are laid off with a leveling instrument on a perfect level, 
and the land cultivated without the aid of guard-drains, or hill- 
side ditches. 



16 Dr. N. f. SdftSBT'S ESSAt 

Here, science steps in to correct the imperfections of the eye. 

It is impossible to lay off a level row by the eye. The most 
skillful horizon taler cannot judge with accuracy the degree of in- 
clination of lands, and discover all the inequalities of surface well 
enough to horizontal land on a level by the eye. But, with a 
rafter-level properly made and adjusted, it can be done, on an 
even or uneven surface with perfect accuracy, on a dead level ; 
and if the land be properly plowed the rows will hold all the 
water that falls on them. 

It is the best and only system ever invented to prevent com- 
paratively level, and gently undulating lands, from washing. 

It is intended to retain all the water that falls on land just 
where it falls : this is natural irrigation . We all know the value 
of water for the nourishment of animals and plants. They can- 
not live without it. Crops often fail for the want of it. By this 
method none is wasted. Enough water is absorbed during win- 
ter and spring rains by land cultivated on this system, to almost 
make some crops, especially when aided by light summer showers, 
that would fail to do so, cultivated by the grading method. 
This method is most applicable to all poor, thirsty, porous sandy 
soils, whether they rest on clay or sandy subsoils ; and to many 
varieties of clay soils not too compact and retentive of water. 

We think we may say with truth, that we never knew, in this 
country, but one kind of clay soil, on uplands, that this system 
was not applicable to, on the ground of making it too wet for 
profitable culture. That is the fine, close, tenacious, marly-clay 
soil, resting on a retentive yellow clay subsoil, of the black-jack, 
post-oak, and hickory ridges of Hinds, Madison, Yazoo, Carrol, 
Holmes, Warren, artd other parts of Mississippi. 

Besides this kind of soil to which the level culture is objec- 
tionable, are the compact red and yellow clay soils of some hilly 
lands, and the blue and white clays of low-lands. 

The red and yellow clay lands may be cultivated by it, if they 
admit of subsoiling to advantage. It is seldom that the level 
culture is objectionable for corn and small grains, and the root 
crops. But when it causes the soil to become too wet during 
the cultivation of crops, to plow well, and hastens a rapid growth 
of grass and weeds that destroy the crops, it is an evidence that 
it should be abandoned, and a grading method substituted for it. 

2. Level Culture with Guard-drains, or Hill-side Ditches. — 
The rows are plowed on a level, and guard-drains, or hill-side 
ditches are added, with a slight grade to correct the evil of the 
excess ot water, and remove it, should the ridges break. Some 
soils, such as close tenacious clays, though plowed deep, may ab- 
sorb a great deal of water during heavy and repeated rains, until 
the plowed soil becomes well saturated ; the water will then sink 
until it reaches the impervious strata, not broken by the plow, 



ON HORIZONTAL PLOWING AND HILL-SIDE DITCHING. 17 

and move along that strata on steep hill-sides, until it accumu- 
lates in such quantities as to break the ridges, and flow downhill, 
carrying the soil with it. 

Again, in clay soils, plowed shallow, a heavy rain succeeding 
another heavy rain, that had run the lanc^ together, and baked 
by the sun, and closed its pores, may cause the water to accumu- 
late in level rows until the volume and weight of water makes a 
breach, and some of the ridges give way, and the water is pre- 
cipitated from row to row till it reaches an outlet. 

A mole, a stump, bad plowing, the wheels of a cart or wagon, 
and other causes may break the ridges, and cause the land to 
wash. To prevent such a disaster, guard-drains and hill-side 
ditches have been invented, to aid and protect the level culture, 
and to correct the ignorance and errors of the inexiierienced hori- 
zontaler, and save his time, labor, and soil. But, in many in- 
stances, they encourage careless work, and are sometimes evils to 
the system. They should not be relied upon too much ; the 
remedy is sometimes worse than the disease. 

1. The Grading Metliod, {or Draining System.)— The great 
object of this method is surface drainage, of arable land : hence 
it is divided into, 

1st. Horizontaling with a grade given to tiie rows, without 
the aid of guard-drains and hill-side ditches. 

Every row is designed to drain itself, and of course the other 
drains are unnecessary. l! is a kind of self-sustaining system, 
and a substitute for straight nms. It is beautiful in theory, but 
diflicult to practice in a general system, on all soils. Some fields, 
and parts of fields, no grade is necessary, whilst different grades 
are required according to the inclination of land, and the physi- 
cal properties of soils, and tlie length of rows. The length of 
rows is very irregular by this method, and short rows emptying 
into long ones, ])0uring tlieir water into them, force them to wash 
into gullies. Hence, it is impossible to prevent the soil from 
washing by this method. It should be confined to close clay 
soils. This method, combined with level culture, answers a bet- 
ter purpose. 

2d. Horizontaling loith a grade given to the roios the same 
as that of guard-drains and hill-side ditches. This method was 
adopted, doubtless, to correct the evils of the preceding metliod. 

When the drains are well made, they check the flow of water 
descending down the hills from the broken rows, and thus con- 
vey it away and protect the land beneath them. Without their 
aid much mischief might take i)iace, but if the work by the pre- 
ceding method be well done, there is no need of the drains to aid 
it. Imperfect work, then, excuses their employment. But they 
are indispensable evils to the system they are used to protect, 
, and are much employed. 



18 DR. N. T. SORSBT'S ESSAY 



3. Horizontaling with a grade given to the rows so as to 
empty their water into guard-drains and hill-side ditches. 

This is truly a draining process, employed on clay-up-lands, 
and low-lands, and answers a good purpose when the rows are 
not too long, and the fall is con-ect. Of course the drains and 
ditches require considerable fall, and to be very capacious. It is 
popular with those planters who have clay soils, and trust much 
to overseers, and negroes, and kind Providence for gentle show- 
ers, to make them crops. But overseers make mistakes, plow- 
men do bad work, and the clouds pour down heavy rains, and the 
soil, as it were, melts and runs rapidly away. To answer a good 
purpose, the overseers, plowmen, and drains require strict atten- 
tion, or the land will be injured by this method. 

4. The Straight row Method, luith Hillside Ditches. — The 
ditches in this instance are cut on hill-sides with considerable 
fall, and the land is plowed on the old straight-row method, the 
plowman raising his plow over the ditch banks as he passes 
them. It is evidently a troublesome business to raise the plow 
over the ditches, and keep them clean. If the soil be sandy, and 
disposed to wash, the ditches must be deep and large, the fall 
great, and the plowman careful, which is contrary to negro char- 
acter, or else every heavy rain will fill up the ditches with sand, 
break their banks, and cut the land into gullies and galls. 
However, it has the recommendation of being simple, and better 
than the old up and down hill method, without the protection 
of ditches. 

Experience will soon teach any one that it is a bad system for 
hilly lands ; for low-lands it answers a good purpose for quick 
and effectual drainage, and enables some low-lands to be culti- 
vated that could not be without this kind of drainage. 

On the rich low wet lands, and the rolling up-lands, in the 
prairie or lime lands of Alabama and Mississippi, when too wet, 
this kind of expeditious drainage is the sine qua non, — the pro- 
per method to remove the water, and dry the land in time to 
prepare it for a crop, and to save the cotton from damage by ex- 
cess of water. 

SECTION VI. 

PHILOSOPHY OF THE LEVEL METHOD. 

It is true there are deep, sandy, alluvial soils that absorb all 
the water that falls on them during the heaviest rains ; but 
again, there are other soils when cultivated on the straight-row 
method, that are injured by the irregular distribution of water, 
one part of the field being drained too much, whilst the land be- 
low it is being drowned ; thereby, both parts sustaining an injury. 



ON HORlZONTAt, PLOWING AND HILL-SIDE DITCHING. 19 



The crops on such land grow and mature irregularly in con- 
sequence of the irregular distribution of the water , and the 
culture. The level culture corrects these evils. It retains the 
water and soil in its proper place, and when the land is culti- 
vated alike, all remains nearer the condition of dryness, and the 
crops grow off more uniformly on the same quality of land and 
mature nearer the same time. 

Should the laud be manured, the elements of the manure re- 
main where de})Osited, and not removed by the first rain to the 
nearest ditch or branch. It irrigates and preserves the soil, when 
properly done. It is the best method to employ to aid in restor- 
ing exhausted lands. 

It is very difficult to lay down any set of rules by which to do 
the work ; because, the physical jjroperties of soils are such, and 
the inequalities of land vary so much, no one rule or set of rules 
would apply to any great extent of surface. One part of a field 
might require the level culture, and another part the grading 
method. Hence, we are forced to adopt the one or the other, 
according to circumstances, and to do the work correctly, we must 
be acquainted with all the different methods. 

It matters but little, where the work begins or terminates in 
the field, so the rows are laid off accurately, on a level. The 
most important rule is to follow the level, let it lead to whatever 
point it may. It will run at every point of the compass, and 
form rows of every imaginable form and length, terminating any 
where in the field. It will lead the new beginner in the art, into 
a maze from which he can scarcely extricate himself, but he 
should have patience and perseverance, and all will come out 
right and no land be lost. He must be content to follow the 
level, but not try and make it follow him, and force it to any 
particular place or termination. The only way to terminate a 
row at a certain point, is to start the level at that point ; but 
ten chances to one, in returning, if the next row does not go off 
at an angle, and terminate at some distance from the first start- 
ing point. It is immaterial whether the rows be long, short, 
straight or crooked, or where they begin and terminate, so they 
are on a level, and the land be well plowed in rows or ridges. 
This should ever be borne in mind. The horizontaler will make 
mistakes, and be awkward at first, but \vill learn to do the work 
correctly. 

SECTION VII. 

ADVANTAGES OF THE LEVEL METHOD. 

This system is the best mode of cultivating land ever invented 
to prevent the devastating efi'ects of rain water washing away 
the soil and the manures put upon it. It enables the soil to ab- 



20 DR. N. T. SORSBY^S ESSAY 



sorb more water, and retain it better, and give it back to plants 
when needed, more effectually and regularly than any other mode, 
thus i^reventing the deleterious ..effects of drought. It makes 
the soil more uniform in production ; improves its fertility by 
retaining the manures ; makes it easier to work, with less labor ; 
causes the crops to grow faster, more uniform in growing and 
maturing ; and as the rain water is evenly distributed on all 
parts of the field alike, when one part can be plowed, all can be 
done at the same time, and saves time turning around at wet 
land. 

DISADVANTAGES OF THE LEVEL METHOD. 

It seems in the order of things in this world, there is always 
an evil attached to almost every good. So it is in this instance, 
but we shall find that the disadvantages disappear by practice, 
and are counterbalanced by the advantages. 

The disadvantages are, the unavoidable necessity of having so 
nany short rows terminating at any part of the field, forcing the 
plowman to turn around often, and lose time by so doing : (this 
time, however, is made wp in the greater number of long rows.) 
The injury to the crop, done by the plow, the mule and the hand 
in turning around at the end of the short rows. The difficulty 
at first of doing the work well, and of plowing the rows out with- 
out breaking up the work, and deranging the rows. The constant 
care and attention, by the overseer or employer, to maintain and 
keep up the system. The necessity of using the ridge and fur- 
row system and abandoning the check and hill culture. 



SECTION VIII. 

PHILOSOPHY OF THE GRADING METHOD. 

Surface drainage is one of the most important operations con- 
nected with the tillage of the Southern soil. The value of the 
grading method cannot be over-estimated. It has to contend 
with a troublesome element, that is a moveable element, always 
seeking its level, whose particles have a great affinity for each 
other, and running together whenever they can, thus accumu- 
lating in a mass, and increasing its volume and velocity when in 
motion. This element we wish to control with a level and the 
plow on the surface of arable land, and derive all the advantages 
of it we can as a feeder of plants, and at the same time, get rid 
of the excess that would prove injurious to the soil and growing 
plants. Nature does this for us in some soils and teaches us 
how to do it in others. It sinks the water in porous soils, and 
stores it up for future use of plants, and removes it when super- 



ON HORIZONTAL PLOWING AND HILL-SIDE DITCHING. ^1 



abundant, from undulating close clay soils before it does injury 
to the plants that do not require it, teaching us to level porous 
thirsty soils, and deepen and drain compact close soils. We 
should study carefully the operations of nature, and apply its 
beautiful principles to the present subject, and conform them to 
the limited capacity of the uneducated minds of men. Very few 
fields of one hundred acres have the same inclination of surface, 
and one variety and depth of soil. Land slopes in every direc- 
tion, and each hill-side or plane of inclination requires some- 
times a different mode of drainage and a different method of 
culture. 

In examining a field, we may find some acres requiring the 
level culture, others again, one method of gi'ading, and another 
a different method, and so on perhaps, through the whole list of 
the different methods of grading. It would be improper, then, 
to employ one system alone for every part of the field. The dif- 
ferent methods should be apiDlied according to the demands of 
the land. Science should guide us, and the one-system horizon- 
taler is led into error by his efibrts to apply it to all localities 
and inclinations of surface of land. We should be acquainted 
with all the systems, and not make a hobby of any one. Better 
try first one and then another, in experimenting, and select those 
that are best and most applicable to the land. If we find a 
straight row more convenient and better than a crooked one, if 
it be correct, adopt it, without sticking to the idea that the hori- 
zontal culture consists of a system of crooked rows. Experience 
will soon teach the new beginner the degree of grade necessary to 
give to his rows and drains, and the number of drains or ditches 
to use, to drain a certain area of land. The grade to the rows 
and drains is governed by the kind of soil, the declivity of the 
land, the extent of the surface to be drained, and the method of 
horizontaling they are intended to aid. If the level culture, with 
drains, be adopted, a few shallow guard-drains with a fall of from 
one to two inches for every span of the level, may answer in 
moderately close clay soils, and less fall in porous sandy s^ils. 
If the grading method be adopted, the fall of the rows and the 
drains depends upon the kind of method of plowing used, and 
the nature of the soil cultivated. We should recollect, that the 
washing power of water descending a hill recently plowed, is 
dependent upon the declivity and the length of the hill, the depth 
of the plowing, the character of the soil, and the quantity of 
water in motion. Hence, the greater the fall, the longer the 
hill, the shallower the plowing, the more porous and light the 
soil, and the greater the volume of water, the more the land will 
be washed. If the grade be not sufficient and the dimensions 
great enough, the rows are apt to be chocked and broken. A 
regular and proper grade must be given, and if an error be com- 



22 DB. N. T. SORSBT'S ESSAY 



mitted, it should be on the side of too little fall. If the grade 
be too much the rows will wash into gullies. Guard-drains and 
hill-side ditches should have grade and capacity enough to drain 
the land speedily and eifectually, without having their sides and 
bottoms washed too much. With a proper fall and dimensions, 
they may be used to convey sand to fill up gullies, basins, and 
deposit it convenient to cover galled places. 



SECTION IX. 

ADVANTAGES OF THE GRADING METHOD. 

It possesses all the advantages of surface drainage of arable 
soils in a simple and the best possible manner without doing 
serious damage to the land. It is the best method ever invented 
to assist in breaking up galls and gullies, and filling up depres- 
sions in the land, and the beds of old ditches and branches, as 
well as ponds, basins and bogs, and in aiding the plow and the 
hoe in restoring worn-out soils. 

It possesses, also, many of the advantages of the level culture. 

DISADVANTAGES OF THE METHOD. 

By careless construction of drains, and neglecting to attend to 
them afterwards, they are liable to choke and break, and wash 
the land below them into gullies. When they have too much 
fall, each row or drain is apt to wash into a gully, and do harm 
to land below their mouths by covering it Avith sand. They dis- 
tribute water irregularly, and where not demanded, drying the 
ridges and hills too much, and drowning the bottoms. Upon 
the whole, they are of minor imjjortance compared to the benefits 
of drainage. 

SECTION X. 

SUBSOIL PLOWING 

Means loosening the subsoil with a plow without any mould- 
board to turn it up. 

We have seen, Nature teaches us three important operations 
that are essential to the perfection of the horizontal culture, viz: 
to open, to deepen and to drain the soil. 

An open, deep and dry soil, we all know, can be cultivated to 
better advantage and profit, by either the level culture, or grad- 
ing method, than a close, shallow and wet soil by any method. 
The latter requires much labor and time to open, deepen and 



ON HORIZONTAL PLOWING AND HILL-SIDE DITCHING. 23 



drain it, and if a good soil the labor pays, if a bad soil the labor 
is often lost. 

Under the soil of some stiff red clay lands, long cultivated, 
originally good, there frequently exists a strata of compact clay 
and sand, called a hard-pan, formed by the treading of the stock 
and sole of the plow, cemented together by oxide of iron, clay 
and fine sand. It exists, sometimes, in gravelly soils, but less 
frequent. Wherever it prevails it makes the land hard to culti- 
vate, and it produces sorry crops. It is always on extremes of 
wetness or dryness. Such land is difficult to horizontalize, with- 
out the aid of subsoil plowing. 

Again, the plow forms in clay land, on the subsoil, small gut- 
ters or channels, into which the water sinks, accumulates. Hows 
and washes the soil, obstructs the work of the horizontaler by 
breaking the ridges and undermining the banks of drains and 
ditches when they are not made deep enough on hill sides to ex- 
tend below these channels. 

The subsoil plow aids very much the horizontal culture by 
breaking up the hard pan, the gutters or underground water fur- 
rows, galls and gullies, on clay lands ; it opens, deepens, pulver- 
izes the subsoil, drains the surface soil by sinking the water, and 
extending the area of air, manures, and the roots of plants, and 
thus producing a decided amelioration of the soil and subsoil. 

The best time to do the work is winter and spring, when the 
land is moist and soft, and when time can be taken to do it well. 
The most eifectual plan is to open a furrow with a two-horse 
plow, with a good turning mould-board, and follow in the same 
furrow with the two-horse subsoil plow, as deep as both plows 
can be drawn. If the time cannot be spared to run so many 
subsoil fuiTows, half the number will answer a good purpose. 
An expeditious plan for corn land is to open the water furrow 
between the ridges, with a scooter plow, deep, and follow it with 
the subsoil plow ; jjut in the maruire, and bed out with scooters 
and shovels, finishing with a turning plow to make a good water 
furrow. 

When employed in lands for small grain the subsoil plow can 
be run to advantage in the old water furrow, which is the centre 
of the land when plowed out, and also in the new water ftirrow 
left open. We need not fear 8u})soiling clay and gravelly soils 
when hard and com})act, especially when old and much worn. 

SECTION XI. 

TRENCH PLOWING. 

This differs from subsoiling, by raising up the subsoil, and 
mixing it with the surface soil, with a turning plow following in 
the fuiTow of another turning plow. It brings up the subsoil, 



24 DR. N. T. SORSBY'S ESSAY 



disintegrates the hard-pan and distributes them through the sur- 
face soil. It is of great assistance to the horizontal culture, by- 
breaking up the gullies, galls and hard-pan, and thus lays the 
foundation of the process of restoring the fertility of worn-out 
lands. 

If the soil was of a good quality originally, and the subsoil of 
the same quality, trench plowing is of much advantage to the 
land to deepen and mix the two. But if the land be poor, and 
the subsoil poor red clay, the trenching should be done by a 
scooter plow, following in the furrow of the turning plow with 
the vi6w of breaking up the subsoil, and pulverizing it, without 
mixing them too much. Mixing a poor clay with a poor soil is 
bad policy, unless much manure is added to improve it. Sub- 
soiling and trench- plowing are often confounded with each other, 
but are quite diflferent operations. 



SECTION XII. 

LAND-GALLS. 

These are abrasions of the soil, by rain water removing the 
soil of clay lands long cultivated by the old wash-away method, 
and leaving the clay exposed. They might be very properly 
called land-sores, of a virulent character, and hard to heal. The 
best way to treat them, is to scarify them deep every spring, sow 
them down in peas, plow them in the fall, and sow in rye ; re-, 
peat the same operation next year, cover them with all the leaves, 
stalks, long manure of any kind, and the third year a tolerable 
crop of corn or cotton may be grown on them. To manage them 
to the best advantage, they should be surrounded, or cut off to 
themselves, by guard-drains, or hill-side ditches. 



SECTION XIII. 

GULLIES. 

These are open water-channels, caused by rain water and care- 
less up and down hill plowing. They are hideous objects to the 
eye of a scientific and practical farmer, and should receive the 
condemnation of all good husbandmen. 

There are many ways of filling them up, but in doing so, 
sometimes two are made in place of one, unless it be properly 
done and aided by the horizontal culture. The land requires to 
be well graded and the direction of the water changed, and not 
be permitted to flow so abundantly down the gullies as before. 



ON HORIZONTAL PLOWING AND HILL-SIDE DITCHING. 25 



When thay are less than three feet deep, they may be stopped 
and filled up in two or three years, in this way. Every twenty 
steps drive up stobs or oak boards across and in the gulley, close 
together, to catch and hold the dirt and water in part ; then, 
throw in leaves, tussucks of grass, corn and cotton stalks, pine 
straw, pine tops, with the laps up hill, and plow up and down 
on each side of it, and drag in as much dirt as possible with hoes. 
Sow them in peas and rye, and let grass grow in them. Plow 
horizontally across, keeping the same regular grade in passing 
them ; to do so, the rows will make a curve up and down. 

Large gullies will require more labor and time to fill them up. 
Cut a ditch across them at proper distances apart, and pile logs 
on each other in the ditch, until the top log reaches above the 
banks of the gully. Now gather all the rubbish, stumps, stones, 
logs, leaves, pine saplings, with the laps up hill, into the gulley, 
and draw in all the dirt convenient and pack it against the logs, 
and on the pine tops, so as to make a dam. The drains and 
hill-side ditches can be emptied into them, and supply dirt to 
fill them up. Allow grass, weeds, peas, and small grain to grow 
in them. In a few years they will be filled up, and bear some 
crop every year to hide them from the gaze of a neat farmer. 



SECTION XIV. 

GUARD-DRAINS AND HILL-SIDE DITCHES. 

Guard-drains are shallow, open water channels, made with the 
plow and hoe, on arable land, laid off with a leveling instrument, 
with a regular and gentle gi-ade, directed around undulating 
ridges and hill-sides, for the purpose of receiving and conveying 
away superfluous rain water. 

Hill-side ditches are a variety of guard, or catch-water ditches, 
but intended to operate more effectually than they, by having a 
greater capacity and grade, in order to remove a greater volume 
of water in a shorter time from hilly lands. They are a part of 
the system of horizontal culture, and are used to aid and pro- 
tect it, and correct its defects. We may very properly term them 
the safety-valves of that system, when properly constructed, and 
waste-ways when improperly constructed. 

They are valuable adjuncts to the horizontal culture, and 
especially to the grading methods, when made according to cor- 
rect principles of hydraulics. On loose, sandy lands, they should 
be dispensed with whenever it can be done with safety, and as 
few as possible be used, and they as far apart from each other, 
and as short as the nature of the land will admit of, to effect the 



26 t)R. N. T. SORSBY*S ESSAY 



desired object. Clay lands, that have been plowed up.and down 
hill, in straight rows for years, and a good deal abraded and 
washed into gullies, require the drains and ditches to be well 
made. It takes two or three years sometimes to break up the 
old water furrows and gullies, and change the course of the water, 
unless deep plowing be combined with the grading method. 
Guard-drains usually answer the purpose on gently undulating 
lands. 

Hill-side ditches are best on hilly lands. Inexperienced hori- 
zontalers would do well in commencing the horizontal culture, to 
employ drains to protect their imperfect work. They should be 
made as short as possible, avoiding all abrupt curves or sudden 
bends, and directed around ridges or hills from a medium point, 
dividing the water and discharging it on both sides of the ridge 
or hill into a ditch, gulley, branch, or outside of the field, where 
no damage to adjoining lands may be done. The fall should be 
gradual and uniform, and just sufficient to discharge the water 
without washing their sides and bottoms. 

The size of drains and ditches should be determined by refer- 
ence to a variety of circumstances, the combined influence of 
which may generally be estimated in practice, although not re- 
ducible to any very exact rules, viz : 1st, we must consider the 
annual quantity of rain ; 2d, the quantity which falls on the 
land during a heavy rain ; 3d, the nature of the soil as to poro- 
sity or compactness ; 4th, the inclination of land ; 5th, the 
length of slopes and extent of surface to be drained. Every 
horizontaler must take into consideration these things, and judge 
for himself. 

A general and important rule as to the capacity of drains is, 
that they should exceed rather than be deficient in the dimen- 
sions ordinarily required to discharge the quantity of water for 
which provision is to be made. A good rule by which the depth 
of drains may be estimated, can be derived Irom a knowledge of 
the character of the soil and its action upon water. Thu» : a 
light, deep, porous, sandy soil, will absorb water as fast as it 
falls, if it lies level ; if undulating, it will absorb it not so fast, 
and the deeper and more porous the soil and subsoil, the more 
and faster it will absorb. On the contrary, a shallow, sandy soil 
on a clay subsoil and clay lands, will absorb less water, more 
slowly, and more of it will jjass off. It will follow the under- 
ground plow furrows when absorbed, and the drains should ex- 
tend below those furrows to catch the water. The close clay 
soils, and the stiff lime lands absorb water slowly, and if they be 
deep, the drains should extend below the soil, and nearer together 
than in porous soils. 

The kind of drains to be used, their depth, and distance apart, 
can be ascertained by experiment alone. It is safest for the new 



ON HORIZONTAL PLOWING AND HILL-SIDE DITCHING, 27 



beginner to follow the example of those who have tested them on 
similar soil to his, and where found to answer well. 

The following scale of the depths and distances of drains and 
ditches, may give an idea of what they require, according to the 
classification of soils into compact, medium, and porous, each of 
which variety may be subdivided into several degrees of porosity 
and retentiveness : 



CHARACTER OF SOILS. 



NOT SUBSOILED. 



POROUS. 

Light loam, (fresh land,) I 
Sandy " " " S 

Light gravelly Sand, ) 

Coarse gravelly Sand,..- S 



DRAINS. 



DEPTH OF 
SOILS. 



Feet. 
1 




MEDIUM. 

Clayey Loam ! 

Gravelly Loam )\ „ 

Friable Loam, S 

COMPACT. 

Tenacious Clay, ' 

Friable Clay, : 

Soft Free Clay, ! 



Inches. 
00 
10 

8 
10 



DEPTH OF 
DRAINS. 



KIND OF DRAINS. ! DISTANCE APART. 



Feet. 

1 

1 





Inches. 

10 Guard-Drains. 
00 Guard-Drains. 



Guard-Drains. 
Guard-Drains. 



Hill-Side Ditches. 



According to the De- 
clivity of Land. 

Wide apart. 
Wide apart. 

Not so wide apart. 
Not so wide apart. 



Need Subsoiling. 
Close together. 



If the land be subsoiled, the drains must be deepened, and 
made wider apart. The tenacious clays are not very commonly 
cultivated in the South. They are too wet for cotton. 



SECTION XV, 



DRILL HUSBA.NDRY 



By the ridge and fun-ow system, in contradistinction to the check 
and hill method, is indispensable to the horizontal culture. Ridg- 
ing and bedding up land is so familiar to every plowman in the 
South, little need be said relative to the manner in which it 
should be done. They are made both by shallow and deep plow- 
ing. We prefer shallow plowing and flat beds, in new ground, 
stubble or sward land, and in porous light sandy, and loose gravelly 
soils. Deep plowing is best in old hard upland clay soils, that 
need deepening and opening, in bald prairie lands, and in low 
wet lands of both kinds. 

The height of ridges and lands are dependent " upon the kind 
of culture, the crop grown, and the character of the soil. 

For potatoes, we desire them high when the plants are set, and 
when the crop is laid by. 

For corn, we prefer them flat in dry uplands, higher in low- 
lands, with clean water furrows. 



28 DR. N. T. SORSBY'S ESSAY 



For cotton, in fresli land, and porous alluvial, and ligjht sandy- 
lands, moderately flat beds may answer very well. They are 
regulated by the width of the beds. In clay lands, the cotton 
beds should be high and narrow, and the water furrows deep and 
clean. We prefer not to ])lant cotton in wet land, but if it be 
done, high beds well drained, is the only remedy against the dis- 
astrous effects of water. The cotton beds are made close or wide, 
according to the quality and ]iroductiveness of the land. In 
rich river bottoms, and black cane brake lands, they vary from 
five to eight feet wide. Thin and medium quality, upland, san- 
dy and prairie lands, they vary from three to four feet in width ; 
some poor lands, they are as near as two and a half feet apart. 

We cultivate our land in ridges for corn, cotton, peas and po- 
tatoes ; they vary in height and distance according to the quality, 
and dryness of the soil. They are from six to fourteen inches 
high, and from three to four feet wide apart, that is, from crown 
to crown. When desiring to sow small grain in lands, we sow 
the grain, and ploAv four or five ridges into a land, and preserve 
the direction of the rows. 

We sometimes sow cotton land in oats and rye, and throw 
four turning plow furrows on the grain, and plow out the stalks 
with a large two horse shovel, thereby making a flat bed, drained 
by the water furrow, and preserving the width of the beds. 

We sometimes sow rye in the fall in cotton land, and run two 
sweep furrows in each row. In very porous land, if the rye be 
sown just before cattle are turned in tlie field, no sweep furrow 
need he runr 

SECTION XVI. 

THE ADVANTAGES OF THE RIDGE AND FURROW 

SYSTEM 

Are, that when the ridges or beds are well put up without too 
great an inclination, it facilitates drainage by breaking up the 
crust formed on the surface of land that is sometimes so close 
and tenacious as to prevent the water from sinking into the sub- 
soil beneath the roots of plants ; it exposes a greater surface and 
depth of land to the action of the sun and air ; it enables land 
to be cultivated that cannot be cultivated on the hill and check 
method, or any other method ; it renders land drier and less sub- 
ject to the destructive effects of wet seasons ; it makes land easier 
to work at all times, with less injury to the crops ; the plowing 
of spring and summer are less hazardous and laborious ; the till- 
age of spring and summer is more certain and effectual ; the crops 
have a nice, mellow bed of loose, dry and warm earth to grow 
and expand in above the cold and wet subsoil ; in fact, an arti- 



ON HORIZONTAL PLOWING AND HILL-SIDE DITCHINO. 29 



ficial climate is produced, whicli improves the health, and has- 
tens the growth of young and tender plants that demand such 
especial care during spring ; and finally, it prevents land from 
washing away, and is the basis and supjjort uf the horizontal 
culture. 

SECTION XVII. 

THE CHECK AND HILL METHOD. 

This method answers a good pui-pose on very loose, porous, 
level })ine lands, for potatoes and ground peas, cultivated mostly 
with the hoe. It is objectionable to the horizontal culture be- 
cause it upsets and breaks up the horizontal rows, and tui-ns the 
water loose, on the land, and destroys the eliect desired by the 
horizontal system. 

SECTION XVIII. 

PLOWING STRAIGHT ROWS BY STAKES. 

This method has been pursued by farmers for ages, and is the 
favorite plan with the majority of them at this time. 

Tlie great ambition of the plowman who lays off the rows is to 
make them perfectly straight, regardless of hill or valley, across 
the field from fence to fence ; nothing but a ditch stops him. 

It is astonishing to see the accuracy with which it can be done 
by a few stakes set in a line with each other. Of course, the 
rows make beautiful drains to dry the hills, and cover u]) and 
drown the valleys with sand and water. The hill to-ps and sides 
are in a few years cut into gullies, and the soil precipitated into 
the valleys to impoverish them with sand and clay. 

This is truly the wash-away land killing method, and should 
be abandoned by every farmer or planter who cultivates hilly 
lands. Level plains of sandy land can be plowed in this man- 
ner very well, without doing much injury to the soil, particularly 
if the rows are changed and crossed every year or two. We adopt 
straight rows whenever we can run them on a level. 



SECTION XIX. 

HORIZONTALING BY THE EYE. 

Instead of running the rows up and down hill, in straight 
lines, this method directs them around the hills, and diagonally 
across them, with a considerable fall to them. 



30 DK. N. T. SOKSBY'S ESSAY 



If they are directed diagonally across the fields, and desired to 
be straight, they are laid off by stakes. If intended to circle the 
hill, the horizontaler walks around the way he desires the rows 
to run, and the plowman follows him, and lays off a guide-row. 
The rows are then laid off by the guide-rows. This is guess 
work, and very inaccurate. We have seen a very intelligent 
planter, who was familiar with the horizontal culture, circle a 
basin badly gullied, on horseback, followed by two plowmen, one 
laying off after the other. The basin was surrounded by a guard- 
drain that kept the water from the adjoining land out of, and 
conducted it off out of the field. The plowmen and the horizon- 
taler were below this drain. As they passed over the gullies, it 
was "gee Ben, haw Dick, haw Ben, gee Dick," sometimes in 
rapid succession, and was very amusing. We called this work a 
horizontal farce. 

The rows were laid off like the track of a snake in the sand, 
and had they not been protected by the guard drain, they would 
have been cut into many troublesome gullies and galls. 



SECTION XX. 

THE SPAN OR RAFTER-LEVEL. 

Of the many leveling instruments in use, among Horizontalers, 
the above is the best, because, it is the simplest, the easiest of 
application, and is most generally employed. Besides, any car- 
peilter can make it. 

In horizontaling land it is necessary to success, to keep a per- 
fect level of the rows in the level culture, and a uniform fall of 
them, and the drains in the grading system. The most conven- 
ient and handy level is made with a span of 12 feet 4h inches, 
and 6 feet high. This span is | of a perch : So that we can 
readily calculate the length of the rows and the ditches, and esti- 
mate the rise or fall of them per perch. 



ON HORIZONTAL PLOWING AND HILL-SIDE DITCHING 



31 




THE SPAN OR RAFTER-LEVEL. 



Explanation of the Figure. — To construct this level, take 
two strips of dressed heart pine plank, well seasoned, A B, 3 
inches wide, | inches thick, and 12 feet 6 inches long. Another 
strip for a foot brace, 1^ inches wide, f inches thick, and 11 feet 
long, D. 

Also, another for a middle brace, or graduated bar, 2 inches 
Vt^ide, I inches thick, and 6 feet long, C. Lap one end of A 
and B together, let them into each other, and make them secure 
with wood screws, so that when fast, the other ends of the strips 
may be 12 feet, 4.\ inches apart from outside to outside, and the 
level, wdien finished, be 6 feet high. 

Make the foot brace, D, fast to these two strips, one foot from 
the ground, when the level is standing on its feet. 

Make the middle brace, C, fast to the same strips, three feet 
from the top, and saw ofi' the ends of all, so that the level, when 
completed, will have the dimensions, and span the distance above 
mentioned. Paint it, and when dry graduate it thus, viz : Sus- 
pend a plumb line with an ounce lead from the centre of the top, 
and let the bob extend two inches below the middle brace. 

With a spirit level find a perfect level on a plank, and stand 
the Rafter Level on it. Mark where the plumb line crosses the 
cross bar with a pencil, and the places occupied by the feet ; 
change the feet, and put each in the place occupied by the other; 
mark again with a pencil where the plumb line crosses the bar ; 
if it crosses exactly in the place it crossed before, that is the cen- 
tre of the level, and the true line ; if not, the exact distance half 
way between the two lines is the level line. To be very exact, 
the assistance of a sijirit level will find it. The true line of 



32 DR. N. T. SORSBY'S ESSAY 



level being found, mark on the top of the bar 0, and make a 
plain line on the front side of the bar to correspond with 0. 
Now put a )> inch block under the left foot of the level, and mark 
where the line settles, and h on the top of the bar ; remove the 
h inch block, and put a 1 inch block under that foot, and mark 
where the line crosses the bar, and 1 on top of the bar ; proceed 
in that manner until it is graduated to 6 inches. Kepeat the 
same process for the right foot, and other side of the line on the 
bar, and the level will be graduated ready for work. 



SECTION XXI. 

APPLICATION OF THE RAFTER LEVEL TO THE 
LEVEL CULTURE. 

The manner of using the level is the same for both methods, 
with this difference : for the Level 3Iethod the rows are laid off, 
and plowed on a dead level, whilst for the Graditig Method, a 
fall is given to the rows and drains. 

It is necessary to be more accurate, and apply the level oftener 
for the level method, than for the grading method. 

Before going to work, we must determine upon, first, the kind 
of crop to be cultivated ; second, the character of the soil ; third, 
the inclination of the land, whether comparatively level plains, 
undulating ridges or hills ; and fourth, the method of horizontal- 
ing desired. 

To illustrate and explain the different methods, we will select 
a forty-five acre field, which we call the Gin-house field. Upon 
examining it, we find a plain, a hill, a ridge, a basin, a pond, 
and the balance undulating irregular surfaces, and wet flats and 
ditches. The soil is a grey and dark sandy land, on a yellow and 
red clay subsoil, of medium quality, that has been much abused 
by bad plowing and constant cropping. It presents a sufficient 
variety of soil, and undulations of surface, necessary to explain 
our subject. 

It was horizontalized by me in 1851. 

SECTION XXII. '- 

TO HORIZONTAL A PLAIN BY THE EYE ON THE 
STRAIGHT ROW METHOD. 

We will go to the field, with the level well graduated, accompan- 
ied by a small boy, who carries a bundle of canes or sticks, some one 
foot, and some six feet long, A sensible plowman, with a quick, 



ON HOKIZONTAL PLOWING AND HILL-SIDE DITCHING. 33 



tractable mule, with a scooter or rooter plow, and a hill-side 
mould-board plow follows. 

To try the skill of the plowman, and the temper and spirit of 
the mule, we select a j^lain on which the Gin-house stands, for 
operation. We suppose the field to be a stubble-field, having 
been always plowed up and down hill. Having determined upon 
the direction of the rows, and the points of departure and termi- 
nation for them, we direct the plowman how to proceed, order 
him to set his stakes, " be sure you are right, and then go ahead," 
and lay off four feet rows. As negroes' memories are short, and 
they are careless, and mules slow and stubborn, we wait to see 
him started. If he proves to be inefficient, and lays ofi" crooked 
rows, irregular distances apart, and can do no better, we dismiss 
him, as not trusty and skillful, and procure another plowman, 
because much depends upon his skill for our jvork to succeed. 
Should he answer the purpose, we leave him and go hence to 

SECTION xxin. 

CIRCLE THE ROUND BASIN.* 

This basin has been partially drained by a ditch passing 
through it, and emptying into the main ditch, but never suc- 
ceeded, because the ditch has never been deep enough, and the 
margins of the basin are too high to admit of deepening it enough 
without much labor. 

We desire to circle it on a level, so that each row may hold its 
water, and keep it out of the ditch as much as possible. 

We will commence at the ditch, at the east side of the basin 
above the margin of the basin, where the land is comparatively 
level, and lay ofi:' a guide-row that may embrace all the slopino- 
land inside of it. 

We set the feet of the level on similar ground, and move the 
forefoot, that is to lead off, until the plummet line, or spirit 
bubble, indicates the true level. We stick down a long cane by 
the side of the plum for the guide stake. We then move the 
level and put the hindfoot by the side of the stake, and move the 
forefoot from side to side, until the true level is found ; we move 
it again, and put the hindfoot exactly in the place the forefoot 
occupied, and find the level again ; we stick a short cane down 
under the jilumb ; we move the level again, and proceed in the 
same manner, getting the level every time, and sticking a short 
cane down every third, and a long cane down every sixth sj)an of 
the level, until we surrou^^d the basin, and return to the point 
or near the place we started I'rom, and we put down the guide 
stake there. The level may return to the ditch above or below, 

* See fig. 1, Basin. 



34 DR. N, T. SORSBY'S ESSAY 



the first guide stake. It makes no difference, so the line is run 
correctly, where it returns to the ditch.' 

We now lay down the level and walk around and examine the 
stakes. We will, perhaps, find them standing very irregularly, 
not in a perfect curved line, but a little zigzag. A skillful hori- 
zontaler can detect in a moment, by the eye, almost where the 
true line of level is, and can move the stakes and re-set them, so 
that the line will have a more regular curve ; it being some- 
where between the stakes, inside of some and outside of others. 
Having arranged the stakes to our fancy, we start at the guide 
stake, the plowman following, and we walk from stake to stake, 
the plow moving them as the mule throws them down, and the 
little boy picking them up, until we arrive at the last guide 
stake, which is likewise plowed up. 

We have now laid off and plowed a circular row, not a perfect 
circle, and if there be no sudden curves in it, and if it suits our 
fancy, we let it stand ; but if we have any doubt about its accuracy, 
we take the level and try it, and if necessary, mark the inaccu- 
rate places, and run them over with the plow. 

We now move the plowman on the inside of this guide row, 
and commence four feet from that row and run a row by it, the 
plowman carrying a four-feet measuring rod, with which he occa- 
sionally measures the distance between them to see' that he keeps 
the proper distance ; and thus he keeps around until he returns 
to the guide stake. As the ditch is narrow and shallow he passes 
over it, takes another row, and goes around as before, on the 
basin side. We take the level and follow him, and test his row 
to see if it be correct, and if there be any variations of importance 
from a true level, we stop him and correct it. There are two or 
three ways of doing this. A very convenient way to keep the 
row going on around, is to widen the distance between the rows 
a little at one place, and narrow it at another. Or, if this can- 
not be done, we put in a short row beginning at the ditch and going 
around until the defect is corrected. We have then to start anoth- 
er row and lay off by that, which the plowman can do, and go 
around again. Sometimes it becomes necessary to widen or nar- 
row two or three rows, or put in two or three short rows, before 
the defects are remedied. 

In finishing the basin, the rows get shorter and shorter until 
we have to wind up with a few short straight rows run parallel 
with the ditch. This concludes the work inside. We now exam- 
ine the first guide row and the land surrounding it, and if we see 
that it has not embraced all the sloping land, we run one or more 
rows on the outside of it, either entirely or partly around the 
basin, as the case demands. If the basin had no outlet by a ditch, 
we could commence to circle it, on either side, and go around a"nd 
stop on returning to the guide stake, nearly opposite to it. We 



ON HOKIZONTAL PLOWING AND HILL-SIDE DITCHING. 35 



then get on the inside of it, and run the rows by it, as above stated. 
It is seldom that a guide row on making a circle, returns and 
meets again. Sometimes when we start to circle a basin, we com- 
mence so far above the margin of the slope, that the level goes 
off into the field instead of around the basin ; in that event we 
go lower down on the margin to commence, so that the row may go 
around the basin. But, if we find it necessary after trying the 
level method for this basin, to protect the rows by a guard-drain 
from the water around oozing into them, we can lay off a guard- 
drain around it, to catch the water and discharge it into the 
ditch. 

If we find, upon experience, that the level culture is not appli- 
cable to the basin, we can try a grading method. This is some- 
times the case. 

The plowman beds up the land high, in this basin, in the same 
way that he beds up straight rows of the same distance apart, 
except that he plows around the basin, and does not stop to turn 
around at the ditch until he is obliged to do so from the nature 
of the rows. 



SECTION XXIV. 

HORIZONTAL A HILL ON THE LEVEL METHOD.— 

NO. 1. 

*We will now work on the Peach tree Hill.'-' About an acre on 
the top of this hill is an uneven plain. The hill slopes North, 
East and South. There is a fence on the South and West, and a 
ditch on the North and East. 

We can commence work almost any where, on the side or top 
of the hill. For convenience of plowing we will begin on the 
top, not far from the angle of the fences, and lay off a level row 
from fence to fence. • This done in the same manner that we did 
for the basin, moving the level as there, and staking the row for a 
guide row. When done the plowman begins and plows it out. 
We test it and find it correct, and neai'ly straight. We put him 
to laying off four feet rows by it next to the fence. They become 
nearly straight before he finishes them. Whilst he is at work 
there, we step down thirty paces to the brow of the hill, and com- 
mence at iho, west fence and lay off" another guide row, which makes 
a curve as it goes around to the South fence. We examine our 
stakes, re-set them, and the })lowman plows it out. We test it 
with the level, and correct the errors with the plow. 



*See Fig-. 1. Peach Tree Hill. 



36 DR. N. t. sorsby's essay 



The plowman, after finishing the first set of rows, has gone 
on the other side of his guide row, and is laying oft' by it. We 
watch and try his work with the level, and see that he keeps his 
distance. We find directly that the south end of his rows ter- 
minate at the fence, and the north ends at the second guide row 
just layed off, and unless his rows are on a level they will pour the 
water into this guide row, or by the side of the fence. 

When he finishes this work he goes below the second guide row 
and lays oft" by that, and we go twenty steps below it, and lay 
off a third guide row. To do this we find two gullies to cross 
made on the side of a fence that has been removed.* They have 
a ridge betweeen them, on which the fence stood. 

We call the hoe hands, not far off, shrubbing a ditch bank,f 
and send for a plowman with a turning plow, who is plowing in 
the first set of straight rows laid off by the eye ; before he arrives 
the hoe hands have nearly filled the gully with shrubs, pieces of 
rails, turfs of grass, and the like, substances, and have them ready 
for the dirt. The plo"v\Taan goes up and down the ridges, and 
turns the dirt on and towards the gullies, and the hoes drag it 
on and fill up the gully with soil, tram])ling it down hard at the 
same time. This job done we dismiss them for the present. 

Unless there is a good reason to commence laying off this 
third guide row at the fence, we commence it at the head, or be- 
ginning of the gullies, and lay off the row on one side, and then 
return to the starting place, and lay off' on the other side of it. 

To do this work well we first span the gullies and get the 
level to start with. We then lay off' from the guide stake. We 
left the plowman on the lower side of the second guide row. 
When the plowman has laid off" five or six rows by the second 
guide row he lays off his third guide row. As he crosses the 
gullies he turns up the rows a little, and crosses in a curve, or 
else after the dirt settles in the gully the water might accumu- 
late in it and make a break. This row is examined for coitcc- 
tion, and corrected. The plowman now lays oft" rows on the up- 
per side of this guide row until his work meets. If there be any 
short rows they are between the two last guide rows. 

We go below thirty paces, and lay oft' a fourth guide row. 
This will be sufficient for this hill-side. The plowman lays it 
off, plows a few rows above it, and then a few rows below the 



* Gullies sliould not be allowed by the side of fences. The fences, if possi- 
ble, should be placed on level land even if they are crooked. So should all 
plantation roads. All gullies should be stopped and filled up several days 
before the land is horizontalized in order that they may receive a rain or two 
to settle the dirt in them. 

t Ditch banks and fence corners should be shrubbed, and all sprouts on the 
field grubbed up before the horizontaler goes to work, so that his work be not 
delayed. , 



ON HOEIZONTAL PLOWING AND HILL-SIDE DITCHING. 37 



third guide row, to throw the short rows between the two sets of 
rows. The balance of the rows are laid off by the last guide row. 
They get shorter and terminate between the angle of the ditches.* 



SECTION XXV. 

HOPJZONTALING THIS HILL BY THE 2d LEVEL 
METHOD, WITH GUAED-DRAINS. 

If we desired, we could make two guard-drains on this hill- 
side. One where the second guide-row is, at the brow of the 
hill, and the other where the fourth guide-row is, at the head of 
the gullies. We select these places, because the rows are more 
liable to break at the brow of the hill, and because the gullies 
have made breaks already. The first guard-drain would have 
less land to protect than the second, and its dimensions can be 
less than the second. We would make it ten inches deep, twelve 
inches wide, with a fall of one inch to the span of the level. 
The second drain would be twelve inches deep, and eighteen 
inches wide, and varying from one to three inches fall to the span 
of the level. To lay off the first one, we would commence at the 
south fence, at a certain place we desire to discharge the water. 
We might pass it under the fence into my neighbor's field, but 
as he has no corresponding drain, we let it go down the fence on 
our side. 

We lay it off just as we do a circular row, except we give an 
inch fall, every span of the level, and turn up the end at the 
west fence to catch any water that might descend by the side of 
the fence. 

To lay off the second drain, we commence at the head of the 
gullies, because if we commence at the fence, the di'ain might 
not }»ass them at that point, and to stop all breaks, gullies and 
washes, we must remove the cause first, and the cause is usually 
above the commencement, and sometimes some distance to one 
side of the break. It requires a skillful eye to detect it some- 
times. We commence at the gullies and give two inches fall, 
and proceed to the south fence, and at the fence we give three 
inches the last span, to prevent the mouth of the drain from 
choking with trash and sand. We return to the gully, and run 



* See Fig. 1. Peach Tree Hill. This bill was laid oif by this method in 
1851, and the gullies stopped in two years. As the i*ows next to the main 
ditch held water too long in the spring of the year, some of them have been 
altered so as to give a little fall to them, to empty the water at the fence, and 
then into the ditch. The hill-side was plowed as deep as one good mule could 
do it, and it has improved and produces much better than it did the fiist year 
with the same management. 



38 DR. N. T. SORSBT's ESSAY 



the other way to the west fence, and the first span we give one 
and a half inches fall towards the south fence, then one inch the 
next span, and continue that fall to the end, and turn it up 
two inches at the fence. We have a drain row with a fall of 
from one inch at the west fence to two, and lastly, three inches 
fall at the other end. The gully by the fence takes the water 
into the ditch below. 

The drains having been laid oif and staked, so as to know 
them, we lay the rows ofi" on a level as above stated for No. 1. 
Should they break, the guard-drains will arrest the water, and 
remove it when deshed. This will suffice to explain this method. 



SECTION XXVI. 

HORIZONTALING THIS HILL BY THE GRADING 
METHOD.— No. 1. 

Suppose we desire to lay off this hill with a fall to the rows, 
without the aid of drains or hill-side ditches, we would com- 
mence as we did for the level method, and lay off the top of the 
hill on a level, as we find it inconvenient to discharge the water 
up there. Then we would lay off the first guide row at the brow 
of the hill as was done for the level method, but give a fall of 
one inch to the span of the level towards the south fence. We 
would lay off a second guide row, where the third guide row is 
for the level method, at the head of the gullies, and give the same 
fall as the one above. One more guide row would be sufficient. 
In plowing out the rows, the plowman lays off a few rows below 
the first and then a few above the second guide rows, so that the 
short rows may be midway between them, if any. Now, if the 
short rows were to empty the water into any one of the long rows, 
it would cause that row to wash into a gully. So we plow them 
on a level. The same disaster would happen if the short rows 
were to terminate with a fall with a guide row. To avoid that 
mischief, we lay off long rows by the guide rows, so as to throw 
the short rows between the long rows as above mentioned. 

The balance of the land can be plowed by the third guide row. 
But we find that they will terminate at the ditch, and there is 
no provision made for the exit of the water. We have either to 
lay off a drain by the side of the ditch, or lay off two rows next 
to the ditch and parallel to it, and make a drain of the water 
furrow of the second row next to the field. This is the best 
plan if the land adjoining the ditch is higher than the adjoiuing 
land. The graded rows then empty into that furrow, and it is 



ON HORIZONTAL PLOWING AND HILL-SIDE DITCHING. 39 



conveyed to the gully by the side of the fence, and from thence 
into the main ditch. 

But should the drain by the side of the ditch have too much 
ftiU to admit of the above plan, we should have to adopt some 
other plan to receive the water and to discharge it into the ditch. 
We should have to plow all the rows in the angle of the ditches 
on a level, or cut a guard-drain from the point of intersection of 
the ditch and south fence, to the north ditch, and give two inches 
fall to it, and empty the rows in the angle of the ditches into it. 



SECTION XXVII. 

HORIZONTALING THIS HILL BY THE 2d GRADING 

METHOD. 

We have to lay off the drains, and then the rows with the 
same fall as that of the drains. Two drains in the same places 
as those for the level culture would answer. We would dis- 
charge the water at the same fence, and with a grade from one to 
two inches fall and twelve inches deep and fifteen inches wide. 
The rows are laid off by the drains as above stated. The first 
rows above and below the drains should be five feet distant to 
give room for the channel and bank of the drains. All short 
rows should be between the long ones, and plowed on a level. If 
they terminated into a long one they would wash it, and if they 
terminated in the drain below they would fill it up with sand. 



SECTION XXVIII. 

HORIZONTALING THIS HILL BY THE 3d GRADING 

METHOD. 

The rows by this method must discharge the water into the 
ditches We cannot explain it so well here, unless we suppose 
the main ditches and the gully by the side of the fence to act 
as substitutes for the hill-side ditches. The drains are laid off 
as by the preceding method, but with more fall, to convey the 
water off more speedily. We then run the rows with a fall of 
one and a half inches into the ditches. Many of them will ter- 
minate at the ditches and many elsewhere. The liability to 
wash the land, and the trouble of discharging the water, would 
make it objectionable on this hill-side, but the method might an- 
swer a better purpose on other places. 



40 DR. N. T. SORSBY'S ESSAY 

SECTION XXIX. 

HOKIZONTALING THIS HILL BY THE 4th METHOD. 

The straight row method could be applied here ; and with 
the protection of hill-side ditches with three inches fall to them, 
the land would not sustain as much damage as it has done by 
the same method without the ditches. For hill-side ditches 
would do for this hill-side, with a fall of from three to five inches, 
eighteen inches deeji, and twenty-four wide. They must be 
capacious, to receive and retain the sand and water. After they 
are laid off and staked, the plowman sets his stakes, and plows 
up and down hill. In cultivating, the plowman has to raise his 
plow over the banks of the ditches as he passes them. This is 
troublesome, and he is likely to plow down the banks. This 
method would do much mischief to this hill in a few years, and 
cause much labor to keep the drains clear, and the banks up. 
It would be very objectionable to this kind of land. 

SECTION XXX. 

LAYING OFF GUARD-DRAINS AND HILL-SIDE 
DITCHES WITH THE RAFTER LEVEL. 

A skillful horizontaler can lay off these drains very well, with 
an engineer's, and other levels of simple construction, but, as 
we write more especially for the instruction of new beginners of 
the art, we shall use the rafter level. We will select the Tri- 
angular Ridge, in the same field for operations. It lies north 
and south, near two hundred yards long, the apex of the triangle 
being east, and the base west, about one hundred and fifty yards 
wide. The ridge inclines south, east and west, and the water 
naturally flows south, south-east, and south-west.' It is bound- 
ed on the east by a fence, on the west by a ditch, on the north 
by a ditch, and on the south by a flat and drain. 

We take the level and go on the ridge where the greatest slope 
south begins, and the greatest expansion east' and west takes 
place, more properly, where the ridge begins to break up, and 
spread out into the flat, south, west, and east. We set the level 
across the backbone of the ridge, and find the exact level, and 
stick a stake down by the side of the plumb line, called the me- 
dium stake. We now go east and place the hind foot by the 
side of the stake, and move the forefoot until the plumb-line 
settles at the half inch mark of fall on the graduated bar ; we 
then move the level, and put the hindfoot exactly where the 



ON HORIZONTAL PLOWING AND HILL-SlDE DITCHING. 41 



forefoot stood, and move the forefoot until the plumb-line set- 
tles at three-quarters of an inch fall on the bar ; we move it 
again, and repeat the same movements until we get to two and 
a half inches fall, and continue that fall to the last span of the 
level, and give it three inches fall ; we finally turn down the 
level to the corner of the fence to six inches fall, so as to give 
the drain a sufficient curve to catch the water descending in a 
gully by the side of the fence, and convey it out without break- 
ing the bank of the ditch. We return then to the medium stake, 
and proceed exactly in the same way for this part of the drain, 
as we did for the preceding part, until we get to the wet flat 
bordering the ditch, and from thence to the ditch we give three 
inches fall, and turn down the line, so that it may enter the 
ditch at an acute angle, to keep it from being choked at its 
mouth. 

In laying off this line, we stick a long cane every sixth, and a 
short one at every third, span of the level. We now lay down 
the level and examine the line. We find the stakes standing 
irregularly, some out and some inside of the line, rather zigzag. 
We re-set them by the eye, and order the plowman to follow us 
with the scooter plow. We walk from stake to stake and just 
ahead of the mule, (who will soon learn to follow,) and leave 
them for him to knock down and the little boy to pick up. 
When we reach the end, at the ditch or fence, the plowman waits 
until we examine, with the level, his furrow, to see if it is cor- 
rect ; if there be any deviations from a correct and regular fall, 
we mark the places and direct the plowman to run them over. 
When it is done right, he takes the hill-side plow and retraces 
the line, throwing the furrow down hill, and thus continues 
throwing two or three more furrows in the same manner, and the 
hoe-hands drag out the dirt and f )rm an embankment, making 
it higher at the fence and ditch, as the danger of its breaking is 
at those places. The plowman luns two or more furrows in the 
drain from each end up to the one-inch grade, and stops at that 
point, as it is deep enough there. When the ditch is finished, 
it will vary in depth from the medium stake to the ditch and to 
the fence, from six to eighteen inches deep, and from eighteen to 
twenty-four inches wide.* 

As the wet flat, bordering the ditch the whole length of the 
ridge, needs draining, and as the land has been cross-plowed, 
and cut into ruts by the plow and water, we conclude to 



* See Fig. 1, H. S. D. Triangular Ri.'pc 



42 DR. N. T. sorsby's essay 



SECTION XXXI. 

HORIZONTAL IT WITH THE GRADING METHOD, 

NO. 3, 

With a fall to the rows of one inch to the dry land and three 
inches to the flat. 

We will commence and lay off a guide row where the wet and 
dry land joins at the hill-side ditch, and run north to the main 
ditch. This row is nearly straight. The plowman lays off all 
the rows by it to the main ditch in the wet land, with the same 
fall, four feet apart. We go to the medium stake, and lay off a 
row north, on the backbone of the ridge, and find it varies but 
little from a straight line, and terminates at the north angle of 
the ridge at the ditch, and give it a fall from that point to the 
hill-side ditch of one inch to the span of the level. The plow- 
man now lays off the rows on each side of this row by it, to the 
first guide row to the fence. We see that it is done correctly, and 
put in a short row occasionally, to keep the correct and regular 
grade. In cultivating this ridge, we have had to make a few 
water furrows across the rows on the wet flat with the plow, to 
drain it quicker during heavy showers. This is all the trouble 
we have had with this ridge since it was horizontalized. 



SECTION xxxn. 
GUARD-DRAINS. 

Below this hill-side ditch we have made four guard-drains, 
two on the east side of the ridge, and one on the west, the first 
one about fifty yards from the ditch, and the second one thirty 
yards below that one, both nearly parallel to the ditch. The 
first one about half the length of the ditch, and the second one 
not quite so long as the first ; both have a grade of from one to 
three inches, twelve inches deep at the outlet, and six inches 
deep at the heads and fourteen inches wide.* 

The one on the west side of fhe ridge is straight and the lower 
end of it is a double drain, receiving and discharging the water 
on both sides of it into the main ditch.f 

The two first are laid off in the same manner commencing at 
the fence and proceeding up into the field. 



* See G. D., a a, fig 1. 
t See G. D., b, fig 1. 



ON HOEIZONTAL PLOWING AND HILL-SIDE DITCHING. 43 

The fourth drain we commence at the hill-side ditch, into which 
the drain discharges at the north end, and curves up and down, 
and then up and down again, to the main ditch south, and just 
before it reaches the main ditch it divides into two, separated 
merely by the bank. The middle of the E connects with a drain 
that leads to the ditch, making three outlets for this drain, one 
into the hill-side ditch, and two into the main ditch. 

We need not describe the laying off and constructing of 
these guard-drains, as it is the same as for the hill-side ditches. 

We might write many more pages on this subject, to illustrate 
the minutiae of this beautiful art, but as the Essay is already 
much longer than we desire, we refrain, but will illustrate it by 
a couple oi figures for the examination and study of those who 
take sufficient interest in the art, and hope to make it sufficiently 
intellisible for the understandino; of our readers. 



44 



DR. isr. T. sorsby's essay 



Fig. 1 — GIX-SOUSE FIELD, 45 ACRES. 




EXPLANATION OF THE FIGURE. 



0. Straight rows by the eye. 

1. Level Method, 

2. " « - 

3. Grading Method, 

4. " " 

5. " « ' 



No. 1. 
« 2. 
" 1. 
« 2. 
« 3. 
" 4. Not illustrated. 



i 



ON HORIZONTAL PLOWING AND HILL-SIDE DITCHING. 



FjG. 2.— BRICK-YARD FIELD, 10 ACRES. 

E 




EXPLANATION OF THE FIGURE. 



1. Level iMethod, 

2. Grading Method, 
3. 



a (c 



The gully was stopped in two years. 



No. 1. 
" 1. 
" 3. 



Note. — Since the foregoing was published, I have seen the following, which 
settles the introduction of the horizontal culture in the United States on Mr. 
Jefferson : 

" The practice of horizontal cultivation, or ' circling' the rows, so as to keep 
them on a level on hilly and rolling land, was introduced by the late Mr. 
William Dunbar, of the Forest, in Adams County, Mississippi, (as Mr. Dun- 
bar is known to have stated in conversation in the town of Washington, in 
1810,) at the suggestion of Mr. Jefferson, of whom Mr. Dunbar was a corre- 
spondent for many years, when the former was President of the United States. 
Having observed when in France, this economical manner of cultivating the 
mountain sides, Mr. Jefierson recommended it as well adapted to our broken 
lands. The practice was tardily adopted, and, like all similar innovations on 
established usages, met at first with its share of ridicule." — From WaiWs 
Report on the Geology and Agriculture of Mississippi. 

(See the reference in the " History of Horizontal Culture," page 9.j 

N. T. S. 



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